So Many Topics, So Little Time-So,What's In a Name?

I don't know where to begin first; there are so many ideas that I wanted to write about, starting with Haveil Havalim #192 being UP and also the Kosher Cooking Carnival (KCC) at Baila's, and including the importance of naming babies in general and my new grandson's name in particular, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and as an adjunct, the horribly high price of kosher turkeys (don't know about you, but I sure can't afford $60 for a turkey), President Elect Obama's cabinet-building choices (will Hillary or will she not? Only her hairdresser ex-president-husband knows for sure), Barkat becoming mayor of Jerusalem (a right-winger after my own heart, though not religious), and a myriad of other topics all of which right now escape me.

But I just have no time: I am working, albeit it at a temporary job (whose pay doesn't cover my bills), I am teaching Ivrit twice a week and rehearsing four times a week for a performance to be given at a Chabad Women's Convention and Retreat next month.
I can't live, I can't breathe (that's a line from a book I read as a teenager. It applies to my non-life now).

So, this post will be a short treatise on the most important topic stated above: A Baby's Name.

Naming a baby is extremely important. It has great portent and will follow him/her for life. If it is chosen with seriousness, insight and inspiration-maybe with a little research as well-it can have great meaning and depth for the child, and help reflect his or her growth and purpose in life.

I was recently reading about celebrities' name choices for their babies (did you know it is a trend now, for Hollywood celebrities to have babies? And name them crazy names?); it is almost one-upsmanship, the way one actor or actress is outdoing the next with a crazier or more unusual name. I mean, Moxie Crimefighter Jillette? Come on!

I believe a name should be timeless, and serious. I'm oldfashioned that way. What sounds cute and cool when the kid's a baby, can sound shallow and superficial (ok, so I'm redundant) when they get older; and downright ridiculous when they become adults.

A name should be something that has depth, meaning and strength; it should symbolize something to achieve, or someone to emulate. And I don't mean Kal-El either (see previous link).

My son and daughter-in-law chose the name Gavriel. Or rather, it chose them: they told me that after considering and researching the meanings and gematria* of several names, they looked at their son and the name just 'popped out' at them. It means "G-d is my strength." It also means bravery, hero of G-d, and strength--which mirrors the meaning of my son-in-law's mother's name (aleha hashalom*...), which also meant "brave." Which was their intention from the outset, to incorporate the memory and meaning of their brother-in-law's beloved mother (aleha hashalom) which I posted about here, as well as invoking the name of my son's grandfather who passed away in 2004.

I am reprinting here the essence of what my son sent out to everyone, explaining the meaning of his new son's name, best said in his own words:

Our son's name is Gavriel - גבריאל which means "Brave" as well as "Man of G-d". Gavriel is the name of one of the 3 angels who came to Avraham disguised as travelers in order to test him in performance of the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (Positive commandment to be hospitable to guests/strangers). Gavriel was also the angel charged with destroying the evil cities Sdom and Gomorrah. Both of these scenes took place in the Parshat Hashavua (weekly Torah portion) of this past shabbat, parshat Vayeira - וירא.

We also named our son after a relative of ours who recently passed away. Marlene (חיה מאשע רבקה בת יוכבד), our brother in-law's mother, passed away after battling cancer for many years. She was a very loving woman who influenced our lives very deeply and we are honored to name our child in her memory.

Now try and bear with me as I explain the connection between מאשע (Marlene's first Hebrew name) and Gavriel. It may seem like a long shot to some, but the essence of a name is in it's definition, not in the vowels and consonants alone. My mother helped us find this in the book: What's Your Name? (A Dictionary of Names), complied and edited by Solomon Colodner.
(Cole Publications, NY 1968)

Here is the following information from the book cited:

מאשע = MARCIA = "brave."

MARCIA (Latin origin) = Brave גבריצה, עצמה

GABRIEL (Heb. Origin) = Strength, hero of G-d גבריאל

גבריאל = Gabriel, Richard, Gaby or Gavy = "G-d is my strength."

And G-d was definitely Marlene's strength...

Likewise the numerical value of Gavriel - גבריאל is 246, a very unique number in the Torah as it is also the equivalent of the phrase Tzelem Elohim - צלם אלהים or "Image of G-d."
I truly feel that our beloved Marlene (may her memory be a blessing) portrayed a character that was in the Image of G-d.

What does it mean to be in the "Image of G-d?" It certainly does not mean physical traits, for we are physical mundane creatures, whereas G-d is omnipresent and awesomely indescribable. In terms that we can comprehend I believe that the "Image of G-d" is equivalent to acts of loving kindness - גמילות חסדים. This concept is one of the 3 pillars which allow the world to exist: Torah study - תורה, Prayer - עבודה, and acts of loving kindness - גמילות חסדים.
In my eyes Marlene was always striving to bring love and affection into this world. Her character was one of constantly attempting to become a better person and to help make the world a better place. What better example to name your child after?

May חיה מאשע רבקה בת יוכבד have an elevation of the soul - עילוי נשמה to the highest levels of the World to come.

All in all we looked at our son and the name just popped out at us. He simply is an angel. May he feed off of the positive energy in this world and add to it endlessly with Torah and Mitzvot.*

All I can say in gratitude is, Amen, ken yehi ratzon.*

*gematria- numerology: the numerical equivalent of Hebrew letters.
*aleha hashalom- may she rest in peace.
*mitzvot - commandments/good deeds
*ken yehi ratzon - May it be G-d's will


rickismom said…
I used to work in a library (children's section) as a teen, and one day when going through the card file I cringed at some of the cruel names kids where given. It is really an evil thing to give a child a really weird name.
I kind of like "Apple" (Paltrow). I think I like it better than Peaches, which is an established name.

When we were naming our girl, I wanted a name that was short but not terse ... feminine but not light-weight ... established but not old-fashioned ... not too common but not outlandish ... and easy to spell. Who knew that so many people didn't know that a girl spells "Frances" with an "e". But she's called "Frankie" and that's not too much of a spelling challenge, fortunately.

Gavriel's a great name. I like "God-is-my-strength". Funny for a baby, but he'll grow into it.
My husband and I really feel that names are extremely important and have to be chosen carefully. My son was given his name after a song from elementary school popped into my head and wouldn't leave. It was a song from perkai avot. My sons second name was decided when my husbands close friend was nifter. This person was a tzaddik who was very involved in kiruv. My daughter was named after my grandmother. My grandmother was a very special person in every way. We find that the children tend to emulate their name sakes. This is why we were so careful with our choices.
Lady-Light said…
rickismom: Can you imagine? Some are unbelievable; a parent's whim, sans thinking of how the child would view it, especially as he/she gets older.
Laura: Frances is a girl, and Francis is a boy--am I right? The name reminds me of 'Francine' (Francie) of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn fame...I loved that book!
Thank you for the compliment on Gavriel's name: you're right; it's a big name to fill, G-d willing he will grow into it, as you so aptly say.
mrs.LFD:I agree. Names are serious business. Our "minhag" was to name our kids two names: the middle one being 'after' someone in the family who had passed on, the first one being a unique name of their own, from the Tanach or some other symbolic name, reflecting a tchunah or specific midah.
My son added the gematria aspect in their choice-that was brilliant (why didn't I think of it?!)
Yes, "his" name is "Francis" and "her" name is "Frances". Maybe I'll take out a public service ad in, like, the NYT or something. If anybody's still reading it.

I myself was named after the theme song for the movie "Laura", with Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb. Not the movie, not the character, but the theme song.

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